Robert Wrigley’s BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY
Yet in the end Robert Wrigley is, like all real poets, more than the sum of his predecessors. His range of subjects mirrors his range of emotions. His voice is unique–a musical and literary sound that would rival an Irish tenor’s.
In “Anthropomorphic Duck” the reader journeys to a mountain lake where a solitary male teal makes its daily swim from end to end, with the narrator imagining its mate is gone and it is now in mourning, since those birds mate for life:
Why here, an otherwise duckless nowhere? The sky
was wide and blue above him; surely the flyways beckoned.
Though we also knew we had no way of reckoning
what kind of inner life he might have possessed,
if inner life is what instinct is, or if he was lost.
The next day his sons go climbing alone, and the narrator becomes seized with a loneliness for them, which hints at an understanding of that duck’s inconsolable plight.
In “Hay Day” a farmer receives a huge round bale of alfalfa, sips a beer, and watches as two of his horses feed on it. Though the scene is nothing out of the ordinary, the telling of a simple event uplifts the reader, who watches as the two horses, now fully fed, prance deliriously about:
–B.J., the troublesome elder, and Red,
the elegant, genuinely exceptional ride–
as always in the same precise relation to one another
(Red at forty-five degrees and a little back)–
before taking off around the fence line
at a trot, then a ca nter, and then for just a few
beautiful moments, a dead and joyful run.
Then in “County”, a whimsical Whitmanesque catalog, we find a poem which clearly owes something to Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago”:
County of innumerable nowheres, half its dogs
underfed and of indeterminate beed. County
of the deep fryer and staples in glass against mice,
county of horned gods and billed hats. Sweat county,
shiver county. The hallowed outhouse
upholstered in woolly carpet, the sack of lime,
time out of time, county of country music.
One cannot help but chime in: “Hog butcher for the world, City of the big shoulders….”
“Night Music” tells of a man walking home through a forest, listening with earphones to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti:
music as lavish and intricate as the pine needle
lacework shadowed along the ground he walks.
As he trudges through the snow, he thinks of the history of those six pieces, then begins conducting
with his blunt, mittened hands the virtuoso stars,
an orchestra of light and forest and snow, through which
he walks a mile or more from home, and returns,
so that at the end of concerto number six, we see him bowing
and shaking the hand of the first violinist, the wind.
Surely it is joyous to read poems that create such pleasure.
These come from a man deeply in love with his existence–and determined to share that joy.